From the tradition of illustrated history to the consecration of the book as a means of visual expression to the success of silent books: discovering and enhancing trends and talents in world illustration is the pioneering work of the Children's Book Fair in Bologna, now in its 61st edition. Founded in 1967 as an international showcase, BCBF is now one of the most anticipated industry gatherings in the world BolognaFiere (soon home of Arte Fiera) from April 8th to 11th, 2024 with meetings and initiatives. Including a large exhibition with the most interesting pens of the moment.
The illustrators exhibition at the children's book fair in Bologna
One of the oldest and most successful proposals at the fair is Show illustrators is a selection of the best global contributions from an annually changing jury of leading artists. For the 2024 exhibition there are 3,520 candidates with a total of 17,600 paintings from 81 countries and regions, from which a handful of artists will be selected whose paintings will be exhibited in Bologna and on a two-year international tour. For participants under 35 there is also the chance to win a scholarship of 15,000 euros to create a book (then issued), and for unpublished participants under 30 there is also the opportunity to take part in the ARS IN FABULA – Master in Illustration for free participate in publication. The selected works are accessible online via the BCBF gallery portalis finally collected in the catalog ofIllustrators' Yearbook (edited by Corraini in Italian and English), with the original contributions of the jurors and a cover by Chilean author Paloma Valdivia.
A few words with the jurors of the BCBF Illustrators Exhibition 2024
We asked you to tell us about this edition and the criteria for selecting the winners (the list of which is). available at this address) and new trends for this year's judges: it's you Marco GhidelliFounder of the publishing house and graphic studio RAUM Italic; Lee Ho-baekFounder of the Jaimimage publishing house, author and illustrator; Xiaoyan Huang, Founder of Macmillan Century, a joint venture of the Macmillan Group in Beijing, and the independent publisher Everafter Books; And Øyvind Torseterone of Norway's best-known and most awarded authors and illustrators, winner of the BolognaRagazzi Award for Detours in 2008.
What stylistic and thematic trends did you recognize in the works of this year's artists?
XH As jury members, we not only pay attention to excellent artistic skills, but also to good storytelling skills. Conveying an emotion or conveying a relatively simple message through an illustration is not difficult for a skilled artist, but telling a coherent story with just five illustrations is no easy task.
LH Although many works make heavy use of digital technology, the feeling of “digital” was not strong, especially because they are only used to complete the work in the second half. Thematically, there was a lot of content that expressed or metaphorized social issues that affect us all, including climate change and peace issues.
MG We noticed that some illustrators also chose to use irony as an element of the story (a decision that I personally really appreciate). Stylistically, I seemed to notice a lesser presence of fully digitally created illustrations, instead there is a return (albeit partial) to the more classic techniques.
What determined the victory of the selected artists?
OT We wanted to find artists who had the courage to express themselves through images. Find images with personality and signature. Artists who communicate thoughts and feelings and tell a visual story. We also wanted to showcase a variety of styles, themes, expressions, techniques, etc. The jury is made up of people with different backgrounds, knowledge and tastes, and I think the selection reflects this: we listened to each other during the selection process.
MG Sometimes we had to avoid including well-executed projects whose underlying idea seemed somewhat weaker or may not have been fully expressed in the tables presented.
Some styles and themes have been proposed several times in fairly similar ways, which is why we have decided to exclude some works and select only those projects that seem most significant to us.
XH I suggest that future participants find their own artistic voice and identity, illustrating stories and topics that you truly care about to show the most sincere emotions and feelings.
Was there a gender, race and age imbalance within the applicant pool?
XH My impression is that there may be more female participants than male participants. Although most of the participants are young artists, there are also some established artists who are in their fifties and sixties. Many participants came from China, Japan and South Korea, the countries where the Bologna Illustrators Exhibition took place. However, there are also many participants from South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina, as well as from all over the world.
Is the illustration world doing well right now, or are there challenges for artists and publications (bigger than usual)?
MG I think that the world of illustration is generally in a good phase, although it depends a lot from country to country. It seems to me that among the new generations there is a lot of interest in illustration and visual communication in general. Social networks, for example, work a lot on the visual aspect and I believe that this is one of the channels that best manages to arouse the interest of young people.
LH In my opinion, there are more passionate and talented illustrators active in the creative space than ever before. However, since diverse books are not welcome, I think it's time for illustrators and publishers to consider more diverse media approaches.
OT The jury discussed how the development of artificial intelligence could pose a threat to illustrators in the coming years. As illustrators, we have to ask ourselves what we can do that AI can't: Can we create something from a feeling or a thought? The creation of the image can arise from a deeper creative need. I believe this is visible in the images (man-made) and will hopefully influence the reader in some way.
As valued professionals, how do you feel about illustrations generated (or co-generated) by artificial intelligence?
LH Starting this year, a new market for artificial intelligence is likely to open up, so we may see new phenomena in next year's review. However, we judges assume that AI will not cause much confusion, because the value of Bologna's illustrations lies above all in the promotion of a human spirit. And I think future juries will do the same.
XH My company, Everafter Books, used AI-generated images as book covers. The age of AI has arrived and I think we have no choice but to embrace all the challenges and opportunities that AI has brought and could bring.
MG The use of these technologies will certainly radically change the work of illustrators (and I believe this applies to many other professions too). It seems to me today very difficult to predict how and to what extent it will influence our field. I must say that one of the reassuring aspects of creative professions, such as illustrator, is that they are always closely linked to human imagination and creativity. Who knows, maybe it's our shortcomings that can protect our work!